If you see a woman walking down the street wearing a long flowery sundress, strappy sandals and wide-brimmed sun hat, do you assume she’s a powerful Wall Street executive? Probably not. Whether we like it or not, we all tend to draw conclusions based on the clothing someone wears.
So, what do your clothes say about you? Are they conveying the message you want to send?
Dress for the occasion
Whether you’re heading to a job interview or a pool party, the key to making a good impression is to dress for the occasion.
You’ve always been told you should wear a suit for a job interview, but that’s not necessarily true. Ideally, your outfit should be slightly dressier than your interviewer’s outfit. When someone contacts you to arrange an interview, it’s okay to ask about the company culture. You may pick on cues that help you figure out what to wear.
What your shoes say
You might be surprised at how much your footwear tells other people about who you are. The Journal of Research in Personality reported that in a study, participants who looked at photos of shoes were able to guess with 90 percent accuracy a person’s age, gender, income, political affiliation and personality traits like introversion and extroversion.
Some of the study’s conclusions were:
- Flashy, colorful shoes indicate extroversion
- Boring shoes indicate difficulty in forming relationships
- Ankle boots are associated with an aggressive personality
- Uncomfortable looking shoes indicate calmness
Accessories are clues about you
When you walk into a party wearing a huge rhinestone collar necklace, you’re telling people, “I’m not a wallflower.” Your jewelry says a lot about who you are. For example, people who wear chunky wooden necklaces, hemp bracelets or jewelry with leafy designs tend to be outdoorsy and down-to-earth.
If you’re the sporty type, you probably favor jewelry with clean lines, like a simple initial necklace, a pair of small silver hoop earrings or a single stretchy bracelet.
While you shouldn’t have to hide your personality to impress people, remember to choose accessories appropriate for the occasion—so if you’ve got that flashy rhinestone necklace, don’t wear it to a job interview.
How your attire can hurt you
Psychology Today wrote about a study conducted by researchers in the United Kingdom and Turkey that examined whether subtle changes in attire could have an impact on perceived competency in the workplace. Using female models and assigning them all fictitious titles—from senior manager to receptionist—researchers presented images of the models wearing slightly different outfits to 129 other women. The models’ faces were pixelated in the images, and participants were asked to rate the models on trustworthiness, organization, competency and other factors.
The study found that when the models wore slightly revealing clothing—skirts above the knee and a blouse button undone—the women rating the images ranked the senior manager images less favorably than images of senior managers wearing longer skirts and a buttoned blouse.
Putting it all together
Many people like to think they’re logical and fair, but we clearly make judgments about others based on what they wear. So the next time you’re trying to figure out what to wear, think about whether it’s sending the message you want to convey.